The 2013 media finalists were announced this week, and my WBEZ series “Fear of Frying” got The Nod in the radio category for stories on Limburger cheese and Grrls’ Meat Camp. On the day of the announcement, Mr. Darcy had a previously scheduled business dinner, so I picked up a rotisserie chicken on the way home and celebrated by pouring myself a delicious glass of Cabernet Franc and dumping about half of my precious little bottle of truffle oil into my mashed potatoes.
Then I went over to the James & Julia Shrine in the dining room and picked up the 2012 medal and checked JB’s expression to see how he’s feeling about me these days. He does have this Mona Lisa quality that makes it really hard to tell what he’s thinking–an ambiguous half-smile, a skeptical yet faintly amused arching of the right eyebrow–which makes me hope he hasn’t been quite as disappointed around here as I’ve been worried he was.
This is my third nomination, Diary, so you might think the thrill would have worn off. But you’d be wrong. The first time, in 2010, I didn’t win, which isn’t the same thing as having lost, since you’ve still ended up in a pool of the top three in your category. You still get to walk around for the six weeks leading up to the ceremony thinking, “OMG! What an honor! Even if I don’t win, I’m so honored to get this close! I can’t even entertain the notion that I might win because that will totally jinx it and then I won’t! But maybe I will! Oh no, I just killed it! I’ll never win now!” You definitely CANNOT write an acceptance speech, because if anything will totally irrevocably jinx your chances it will be having an acceptance speech in your purse, for sure. But what if you win and you get up there and you can’t think of anything to say? And you forget the names of everyone you would have wanted to thank, including your mother and Mr. Darcy? Would it be okay, Award Gods, if you just printed some names in block letters on your hand or a teeny little slip of paper just in case, or does even that most minute display of hubris doom you to losing?
I’m sure it’s because I broke down on the afternoon before the awards and scribbled an actual little speech on a piece of paper and tucked it into my purse that I lost that time. Well, not “lost,” but “didn’t win.” By then it was late in the evening and I realized that, by being too nervous to eat any of the amazing food that, as you can imagine, shows up at a Beard Awards dinner, and too worried about coherently delivering the acceptance speech that I was still trying to assure the Award Gods that I wasn’t really planning on giving, I had squandered the entire Awards Dinner experience. How stupid was that? And since I thought the nomination was a bizarre fluke to start with and was obviously never going to happen to me ever ever ever again, the let-down was horrible. The next day I clearly remember dragging Mr. Darcy into an enormous Whole Foods on the Lower East Side (because it was reputed to be one of the biggest in the country at the time and I have a weird propensity for prioritizing potentially interesting food markets above museums on our tourist itineraries) and having a complete emotional meltdown in the sushi department.
When it happened again last year–OMG! Lightning does strike twice!–I kept a much cooler head. Any little acceptance speech that began composing itself in my head: BAM! I nuked it before the second sentence could even reach its period (.). No, no, no, I thought, I’m not falling for THAT trick again. I’m here to enjoy myself! I mingled and tippled and nibbled and gawked and was so engrossed in the conversation at my dinner table that when my category was suddenly announced–way ahead of where it was listed in the program, suggesting that we wouldn’t be getting there till way into the dessert course, and here we were not even into the entree–I was completely unprepared. People, this is why when you watch the Grammys and the Oscars, the stars all look so dazed when they get up to the microphone. You think that they, being celebrities, don’t care about something as superficial as an award anymore. They’re rich, they’re famous, they’ve been on the cover of People magazine, why should they care if they get this gold star on their resumes?
I think the cynical answer is: because it translates directly into even more fame, even more money, and even more career opportunities than they had before. But I think the human answer is: because even if you normally don’t walk around wondering whether you’re the World’s Most Wonderful Whatever, the moment you get selected for a small pool of people who are practically the World’s Most Wonderful Whatever, it becomes really hard to not desperately want to be the one who gets picked.
I don’t really have any idea what I said during those brief moments when I was up on the podium babbling the acceptance speech I hadn’t written into the microphone last year. But I did walk around for a full two weeks after the ceremony, when I’d returned to my day job and the largely suspense-free terms of my usual existence, with JB tucked into a compartment in my purse. From time to time, I took him out to make sure he was still there, to see if he was still maybe-smiling at me, waiting for me to show him what came next.